University study that aims to identify well being of Manatee County veterans could be a game changer

Manatee County’s 35,000 veterans have an opportunity to anonymously participate in a first-of-its-kind study of their well being by the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

An online survey recently went live, seeking information on veterans’ physical and mental health, employment history, relationships and lifestyle.

Vets will also be able to participate in study at Manatee County’s primary Veterans Day observance Sunday, Nov. 11, at Palmetto’s Lamb Park .

Children from The Center of Anna Maria wave flags during Anna Maria Island’s “Old Soldiers and Sailors” parade to honor Veterans. The island event returns Monday, Nov. 12. Bradenton Herald file photo ttompkins@bradenton.com

“The study should be completed by summer of 2019. We want to touch all the areas related to veterans. We will use it as a major tool for organizations to focus on the needs that veterans have,” said Carl Hunsinger, chairman of the Manatee County Veterans Council.

Collaborating on the USFSM study of veterans’ well being are Eric Hodges, a professor of interdisciplinary social science, Thomas Becker, a business professor, and Ramakrishna Govindu, an instructor of information systems and decision sciences.

The study is designed to develop information needed to improve the lives of veterans and their families.

“The Veterans Administration provides very generic data on a county level — age, gender and branch of service — but we know very little about their employment status, physical and mental health, education level, relationships or their living environments,” Hodges said in a press release.

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Veterans on motorcycles is often a feature of Veterans Day parades in Manatee County. The 2018 Veterans Day ceremony, parade and festival in Palmetto begins 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 11. Bradenton Herald file photo TIFFANY TOMPKINS

The 50-question veterans assessment, based on a survey developed by the World Health Organization, is anonymous. In addition, a second survey of veterans’ family members has been created. The researchers are hoping that together the two surveys form a composite of Manatee’s veteran population to identify the veterans’ needs.

“One of the limitations with survey research is that it only measures the perceptions of those who complete it,” Hodges said. “By adding the perceptions of family members, the team hopes that we will get a more comprehensive picture of the veterans.”

The study was initially proposed by Christopher C. Nothdurft, a veteran and graduate student at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee as a concept that could potentially improve the lives of area veterans.

“For over a year (first as a MBA Student and then as a recent MBA Graduate) I worked to pave the way for this important research. I was able to build a winning project team of research experts and have continued to dedicate time as a project team member, veteran community SME (subject matter expert), and liaison for the Manatee County Veterans’ Council,” Nothdurft said.

“Additionally, I have worked to engage the community and bring awareness to the impact that could be made through this Manatee County Veteran Needs Assessment/Demographic Study. I look forward to doing everything in my power to continue to make a positive impact for Manatee County’s Military Veterans as well as our community as a whole,” he said.

The veterans survey was recently released online at https://tinyurl.com/ycnf3sfb. The family survey can be taken at https://tinyurl.com/ycgdlbtl. A paper version is due for release near Veterans Day.

The study will run through December and then be brought back in the spring to help the researchers gather more data to form a thorough picture. Their goal is to sample 5,000 veterans to produce a statistically accurate representation of the county’s veterans.

The Manatee County Veterans Council approached Hodges in November 2017 about developing the study.

“As far as we know, there have been no other scientific studies in Florida that focused on veteran quality of life at the county level,” Hodges said.

Manatee County’s largest Veterans Day observance is planned for 11 a.m. Nov. 11 at Sutton and Lamb Park, 1036 SixthSt. W., Palmetto. Retired Lt. Col. Rae Chapman will be the guest speaker. The Col. Frederick J. Graves Veteran of the Year, James E. Klocke, and the civilian of the year, Betty Chambliss, will be recognized during the ceremony.

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Eric Hodges, left, talks to Bryan Jacobs, Manatee County veteran of the year, center, and Carl Hunsinger, chairman of the Manatee County Veterans Council, in 2017 as USF Sarasota-Manatee was making plans for a study of veterans needs in Manatee County. Bradenton Herald file photo

Klocke, a veteran of the Coast Guard and member of Manasota Elks 2734, is being recognized for his far-ranging service to vets, including those in assisted living facilities, Manatee County Veterans Village, and Bay Pines VA Hospital. In addition, he led Elk efforts to clean up the Veterans Park near Manatee Memorial Hospital, and obtained funding to replacing flags and halyards there.

Chambliss, director of advertising and community relations at Manatee Memorial Hospital, is being honored for her longtime service to the veterans community, including assisting with activities at the Veterans Memorial, meetings, and recognizing patients who are veterans.

Following the Veterans Day ceremony, the annual parade will arrive from Manatee County Fairgrounds at Sutton and Lamb Park about 11:25 a.m.

Activities continue at 12:15 p.m. with a family-friendly festival at Lamb Park, including three bounce houses, live music, and laser tag, concluding at 5 p.m.

“It will be the biggest festival we have put on. The only thing you will need to pay for is what you purchase from vendors,” Hunsinger said.

Also planned to honor veterans:

  • The city of Anna Maria hosts the Old Soldiers and Sailors Parade starting at 1 p.m. Nov. 12 at City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, and will go down Pine Avenue to City Pier Park. The parade will feature three high school marching bands, floats, Privateers, a military fly-over and a few hundred marching veterans. Join in the parade or come out and watch. A free ice cream social will take place at the AMI Historical Museum, 402 Pine Ave., immediately following the parade. To register to be a participant in the parade, visit cityofannamaria.com.

  • State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota will salute veterans Nov. 9 during community events designed to recognize all branches of the military at SCF Bradenton and SCF Venice. SCF alumnus Travis Pendergrass will discusses his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and what helped him transition from combat to civilian life at 11 a.m. in Building 60, Room 101, SCF Bradenton, 5840 26th St. W. The SCF Collegiate School and SCF’s Ministry Services will offer free coffee and donuts to student veterans before the programs in Bradenton and Venice. For more information, contact Lisa Goss, SCF Bradenton veterans advisor, at GossL@SCF.edu or 941-752-507.

  • Several schools throughout Manatee County will be honoring veterans with ceremonies and musical performances Nov. 5 - Nov. 13. The observances are by invitation only and are not open to the public.